No Regard

July 8, 2008

Betrayal of a Southern kind.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Brian Murphy @ 7:32 pm

(Editor’s Note: I told you we were adding to the staff here, so go ahead and enjoy the first post from one of our new guys.)

There have been books written about the history of French betrayals, how the country has betrayed democracy and tried to undermine U.S. efforts in the Iraq War. This past weekend, America struck back. Not with its government or military. No, we got something better: The Atlanta Braves. Or at least, that’s how outfielder Jeff Francoeur sees it.

Francoeur, who’s nickname is “Frenchy”, rejoined the club yesterday, three days after he was sent down to the team’s Double-A affiliate. He was mired in the worst slump of his career (1-for-23). He was being booed at by his traditionally sedate home crowd at Turner Field. As a native of Georgia, many thought that Jeff was hearing different solutions from all throughout his nearby family and putting too much pressure on himself to snap the slump. So, the Braves’ brass thought he could use a break.

“We look at it as stepping back for a few days and decompressing and getting his game going again,” Braves General Manager Frank Wren said to the Associated Press on Friday.. “It gives him the ability to do that.”

OK, cool. Take a couple of days, get away from home, go down to the Mississippi Braves, try to refine your swing and we’ll see you back up here soon. Sounds sane enough.

But not to Frenchy, according to his quote in Monday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“After three years, after playing hurt, playing every day, going in every day whether I got a hit and never complaining, I just played because [Braves manager Bobby Cox] kept putting me in the lineup. But I just felt like a little three-minute thing — ‘Hey, you’re going down’ — I feel like after three years, I was owed a little more of an explanation.

“My question is, what if I had hit a home run or had two hits [Thursday night]? Does it delay it one day, until I was 0-for-4? I was left standing outside in the dark on that. You almost felt like they had made [their minds] up before the game. That’s where I felt frustrated, where I felt a little betrayed.”

When I first saw this quote, I felt like a fat kid in a candy store: I didn’t know where to start. So, let me start at the beginning with this …

THREE YEARS?!?! I guess Jeff has created his own addition to the MLB rulebook. Much like a player can control his trade status under the 10-5 rule, Francoeur has seemingly founded a 3-3 rule, which can keep you from being demoted after three years of service. That’s super.

Anyway … three years? Somewhere, Cal Ripken, Jr., is laughing. Hell, even Miguel Tejada is giving Francoeur a raised eyebrow.

True, Francoeur has played in every game in each of the past two seasons, and that’s quite an accomplishment for any player. It shows good physical conditioning and a love for the game. But, it came to a point where Francoeur was actually hurting the Braves by being in the lineup every day.

During the little six-game stretch June 27-July 3 that became the focus of this demotion, the Braves went 1-5 and didn’t score more than five runs in any game. Plus, it wasn’t exactly like Francoeur and the Braves were facing some of the game’s all-time greats. John Parrish? Kyle Kendrick? Adam Eaton? Yeah, that’s some real quality right there.

Francoeur said he wanted a little more explanation. Well, Jeff, just think about it. All you needed to do was look beyond the past week, all the way back to the end of April. The season started out well for Francoeur, as he was showing the patience that he hadn’t shown before. But since April 30th, he is hitting .210 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. For a guy who is looked upon to hit in the middle of the Atlanta order, something is wrong. Analysts have been saying that Francoeur is so messed up at the plate right now that it looks like he is changing his stance in every plate appearance. Now, he’s gone back to his bad habits of swinging at balls 10 feet in front of the plate and refusing to take a walk. Francoeur struck out just seven times in April, and then followed that up with 50 Ks over the next two months.

Seeing as how long this string of bad at bats has continued for Francoeur, one good day on July 3 wouldn’t have saved him.

Francoeur’s attacking style at the plate was one of the reasons he was an immediate fan favorite in Atlanta. But, everyone knew that would catch up to him. Francoeur swings so much, he makes Glenn Miller blush from beyond the grave.

And it caught up with him starting in 2006, when Francoeur never hit higher than .270 and posted a 6-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. In the middle of that season, there were whispers that he was on the verge of being sent down to the minors. Everything seemed to be corrected when Francoeur put up career numbers last season and winning a gold glove, but obviously, nothing has carried over.

Wren, Cox and the other Atlanta higher-ups certainly had made up their mind. But, they also knew that this demotion for Jeff would be abbreviated to say the least. But, Francoeur still took offense to it. People have said that this is being blown out of proportion because Jeff didn’t exactly say that he felt betrayed toward the Braves. Puh-leeze. He gave you a pretty big hint. I am sure he was cursing their name in private.

Jeff Francoeur is a great guy. He’s a gamer, a two-sport star during his high school years in Georgia and saw his amazing story come to a culmination when he was drafted by, zoomed through the minor-league system of, and has gotten to play for his hometown team for the past few seasons. But when you play as bad as Francoeur has this season, some measures need to be taken. That’s what the Braves did and Francoeur took it absolutely the wrong way and expressed his thoughts poorly.

Francoeur was very successful in what was basically a rehab trip, going 7-for-13. But if I was a betting man, I would also say that we will hear the words Francoeur and demotion sooner rather than later unless he drastically changes his approach and his mindset at the plate.

Plus, if he wanted to be impactful, he shouldn’t have said he felt betrayed. Given his reputation, he should have said the Braves broke his fair heart. Loosely translated into French, that spells Francoeur. See, you just have to think about some of these things.

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